Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Game of Thrones: Lessons About Status II

Lord Varys, the eunuch (source)

This week is my first week of teaching a new course at the University of Illinois. The course is called "Power, Status, and Influence" and so far I've finished preparing about 80% of the lecture materials. I'm pretty excited about the topic and I think (hope?) the students will be as well. In my last post about the course I mentioned considering the popular George R. R. Martin fantasy novel "A Game of Thrones" (now filming its third season on HBO) as a required text. After all, the novel is an impressively insightful study of power and status. In today's blog post I will discuss one aspect of "A Game of Thrones" that relates well with research on one correlate of social status: Testosterone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"She Asked For It": The Destructive Impact of Rape Mythology

A U.S. congressman and senate candidate recently made headlines for his comments about the link between rape and pregnancy. "If it's a legitimate rape," he said in a TV interview, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" (you can watch the full interview here). This statement has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike, as it suggests not only that women who become pregnant from rape were likely not in fact raped, but also, more broadly, that some forms of rape are not "legitimate." The congressman has since apologized for his remarks, saying that he misspoke, but the belief system reflected in his words may be more pervasive than we realize. Although most of us are taught that rape is wrong, we are also exposed throughout our lives to ideas about rape that are both inaccurate and harmful. These rape myths, as they are called, can directly or indirectly serve to excuse perpetrators and blame victims, and psychologists have found that they may also increase the likelihood that individuals will commit rape.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The "Cohabitation Effect": The Consequences of Premarital Cohabitation

According to the U.S Census, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. With such a high rate of divorce, a bit of skepticism and concern about entering into matrimonial bonds is appropriate. Premarital cohabitation allows couples to experience a “trial marriage” before making the real commitment. Cohabitation is increasingly becoming a natural part of the courtship ritual, a transition from dating to marriage. Indeed, according to a recent talk I attended, two thirds of American will cohabitate with a relationship partner, and one half of marriages emerge from cohabitation. Following common sense, it would seem that those who cohabitate before marriage would be more prepared for and confident about marriage having already lived together. This preparedness and confidence should thus lead to lower divorce rates for those who cohabitated before marriage than those who did not cohabitate. Research has shown, however, that in this case common sense is wrong. Premarital cohabitation actually appears to lead to higher divorce rates in many Western countries. Why might this be?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't stand so close to me: Why morality divides us.

Have you ever discovered that a friend has a dramatically different position than you on a moral matter? Perhaps you found yourself on opposite sides with an old pal in the wake of 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq. Maybe, during the Occupy Movement, you discovered that some of your friends had a different take on financial inequality than you did. Or, possibly, last week you found out that a colleague lined up proudly to get a Chik-Fil-A sandwich in order to support "traditional marriage day,” whereas you had a different take on the issue. How would these differences of opinion make you feel? It's likely you might find yourself questioning your opinion of the friend and your relationship with him or her.

Why can’t we accept differences in moral opinion the same way we  readily accept differences in other opinions like music preference? What makes moral attitudes so different and divisive?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How the Rich are Different from the Poor II: Empathy

In the many conversations that F. Scott Fitzgerald had with his friend Ernest Hemingway, Fitzgerald was believed to have said "The rich are different from the poor." Hemingway's alleged response: "Yes, they have more money."

While this conversation may have never occurred, it goes without saying that the rich do indeed differ from the poor. In this second part of a four part PYM series I will be exploring precisely how the rich differ from the poor--in a psychological sense at least. In the first post, I discussed how one's social class status--that is, the money, education, and occupation status of one's family--influences the concept of choice. In this second post, I discuss how social class influences patterns of empathy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to make time stand still

It often feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things we want to accomplish, let alone find a moment to relax. The demands of work and social life, combined with our basic needs for sleep, food, and exercise, can quickly add up and overflow, producing the sense that time is constantly slipping away and we're constantly running to catch up. Time may be limited, but it doesn't have to always feel that way. New research suggests that our state of mind can change the way we perceive and experience time, and in turn, make us happier and more giving.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Behind the Scenes of Psychological Research: What Does the Future Hold?

Since starting this blog, I’ve told you about interesting and hopefully useful research findings. But today I wanted to take a step back and share with you a bit about what is going on behind the scenes of psychological research. We assume that findings we are telling you about—those which are published in peer-reviewed journals—are true, but it turns out that is not always the case. Recently, it has come to light that the way we conduct our studies may be leading us to find “significant results” more often than they truly exist. And even more extreme than problems with methodology is the harsh reality that some researchers may be simply making up their findings. So today, I wanted to share with you some of my personal experience behind the scenes of science, as well as three great suggestions I’ve heard for reforming our scientific ways.